It happened again. On Saturday Indiana took on No. 6 Michigan State as the underdog and completed the series sweep with a 63-62 win in a thriller of a matchup at Assembly Hall.
IU’s record is back above .500 for the first time since losing to Purdue on February 19 and postseason hopes have been renewed as the end of the regular season draws near.
1. Justin Smith and Devonte Green
These two guys were spectacular today. Smith had it going right from the getgo as he scored Indiana’s first seven points of the afternoon including his first made three-pointer in over a month. The sophomore ended the game with a career-high 24 points on 9/19 shooting from the field and he hit multiple three pointers for the first time since January 6, 2018 when he hit two against Minnesota. In this game he went 3/6 from downtown. Smith quite literally had a career day. It was his best performance as a Hoosier.
In the first half Indiana received very little production from its bench, but that changed after the break and Green led the way. The junior guard led IU in scoring in the second half, dropping 11 points on 3/5 shooting overall and 3/4 shooting from downtown. He also had a pair of steals and three assists in the second half including a crazy alley oop to Smith.
These guys have a tendency to be hit-or-miss, drawing comparisons to Troy Williams for obvious reasons. Today the duo had the sauce and did more good things than bad things. They were the driving force behind this enormous win for the Hoosiers.
2. The Defense
Indiana’s defense has been more or less good for the majority of the year. There have been struggles at times, but both early and late in the game on Saturday we saw what this Hoosier defense looks like when it’s at its best.
IU did a tremendous job of forcing turnovers against the Spartans. Michigan State turned the ball over 14 times and the Hoosiers managed to turn that into 15 points.
Late in the game Cassius Winston, the likely Big Ten Player of the Year, had a chance to win the game for MSU late. On the final possession the Spartan guard was hounded by Rob Phinisee and ultimately forced into a shot that he missed, sealing the IU win.
3. Cleaning The Glass
At times Indiana has struggled on the glass this season. That wasn’t the case on Saturday. The Hoosiers outrebounded the Spartans 31-30, but the real discrepancy came on the offensive glass. Time and time again IU was able to grab boards on offense, racking up 15 rebounds on that end compared to MSU’s five. Indiana turned those rebounds into 10 second chance points.
Juwan Morgan was huge for Indiana on the glass. He pulled down 11 boards total, including a trio of offensive rebounds. He was the only Hoosier with more than four boards.
With the win it feels like Indiana controls its destiny. Win the next three in a row and the Hoosiers are likely an NCAA Tournament team. Win one more game and at worst IU will qualify for the NIT.
One last thing. This was a big win so enjoy it and...